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Sunday, February 08, 2009

How Many Times in One Day Can I Receive Holy Communion?

I’ve often heard this question, whether it was addressed to someone on Catholic radio, to a parish priest, or even from volunteers in a parish. I've repeated to people what I'd heard through credible sources, although I've since learned that SOME of those sources were wrong. (Stop looking so shocked. Catholic apologists, whether lay or clergy, are human, too!)

In Canon Law class last month, we addressed this very query, but with a proper foundation in reading the law.

Can. 18 states, “Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.

A “strict interpretation” is reading the law to the very letter. Not reading into it and placing things there that are simply not present.

So let’s look at Canon 917, which addresses how many times in one day one can receive Holy Communion:

Can. 917: “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 921.”

(As an FYI, Can. 921 s 2 addresses Viaticum and reads: “Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again”)

Objection 1: I heard someone on the radio state that Holy Communion can only be received twice if the Mass is a different type of Mass, i.e. the first one is a Daily Mass, the second a Wedding. Or a Wedding early in the day and then the Sunday Vigil Mass later. Therefore, one could not receive communion the second time if they went to two daily Masses.

Objection 2: That means that if someone has already received Holy Communion, and goes to Mass again later, but is late and misses the first reading, they are prohibited from receiving a second time.

ON THE CONTRARY: These objections are a perfect example of reading something into the Law that isn’t there.

REPLY TO OBJECTION 1: I answer that: Canon Law states only that the second reception must take place within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates. That could be another daily Mass, it could be a wedding, a funeral, a second Sunday Mass. Canon Law does not give a distinction.

Thus we must strictly read and adhere to the law, and what it actually says, remembering Canon 18. As it would be a restriction of a right to tell someone that they can receive only at a second Mass celebrated for a different purpose, Canon 18 applies. In light of Canon 18, reading Canon 917 to the letter, we see that the ONLY requirement (outside of the Sacrament of the Sick) is that the second reception of Holy Communion requires participation in a Eucharistic celebration.

REPLY TO OBJECTION 2: Canon Law does not say that the person cannot receive if they are late; only that they must participate. If the person arrives late and participates to the degree possible, there is no reason, under Canon Law, why they would not be able to receive if they otherwise have the proper disposition. However, there may be another Church document outside of Canon Law that would address this issue. I will simply state that if we read Canon 917, it does not address lateness, only participation. We cannot read into the Law something that simply is not addressed within it. As "participation" is not defined, it is not a part of the decision as to whether someone can or cannot receive Holy Communion a second time if they arrive late to the eucharistic celebration.

The purpose of Canon Law is not to govern every small thing that people do, and should not and cannot be used to find out things such as how late one can be to Mass before receiving Holy Communion. If you or someone you know wants to justify arriving late to Mass at any point, you will NOT find that justification in Canon Law, either.

***** NOTE: The word "participation" does not mean "doing stuff" like serving as an Extraordinary Minister, or Lector, or Usher. That is a complete misreading of the term. ALL of us, when we attend Mass or some other "Eucharistic celebration" are participating by being engaged with the prayers, knowing what is going on, actively listening and paying attention, etc.

The Saints often used the term "Assist at Holy Mass." They weren't running all over the Church "doing stuff", but rather, were in the pews, standing, sitting, kneeling, praying. The word these days, instead of "assist" has become "participate", and means the same thing now as it did when the Saints referred to it.

Thus, the word "participation" in Canon 917 should be understood to be Mass attendance.

Note: Canon Law is not interpreted in a vacuum, but also in light of moral law. A lot of people have questions about "how late is late" in order for their Mass attendance to be considered "full participation." Well, that question isn't answered in Canon Law as it belongs to a larger issue. Why are you late? On purpose? Habitually? Habitually on purpose? Because you got a flat tire en route and were delayed? Some priests I know say you should hear the first reading and on, others have said for certain to be present for the Gospel. All would say that you can't just show up for Mass at Communion time and receive. That is an abuse, just as is receiving and immediately departing. So...look to moral law for that question, look to a properly formed conscience.


Hidden One said...

Furthermore, unless some other canon or whatnot is relevant, the first occurrence does not even need to be at Mass... it could be viaticum, or at a Communion Service that is not a Mass.

Also, this being important for Vigils, the term "day" really does mean day - it is thereby possible to receive the Eucharist on a Saturday night vigil Mass and twice on the Sunday.

(My source for the above is Catholic Answers... I'm no canon law scholar or somesuch.)

Warren said...

So it sounds like "participate" means "attend", not that you have to be a Lector or EMHC, formally participating in the liturgical celebration up front, which was how I would have read it on my own.

What about missing the epistle meaning you should not receive? Is that in canon law, or only imputed (as above) for a second reception of holy communion on the same calendar day?


Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ Yup, exactly. Catholic Answers is right. :-)

Warren ~ I looked to see if there was a Canon Law definition of "participation", but there is not. I'll add that at the bottom. your question gets to what I was getting at in the 2nd objection.

There isn't anything in Can. 917 that addresses lateness, so we can't read that into the law. It isn't there.. HOWEVER it might be addressed somewhere else, in some other document. I've never seen that particular issue in writing, but that's not to say it isn't.

I'll throw in a quick update to define "participation", meant to do that last night, thanks for pointing it out. A lot of people are confused by that word given the common misunderstanding of its meaning.

X said...

I always thought that if you arrived after the Gospel reading you should not receive. Please advise.

Adoro said...

Angela ~ I can't address that at all, which is what I was saying in the Note at the bottom. All I can say is that it's not in Canon Law.

It MAY be in another Church document, but it can't be addressed from Canon Law itself.

I've heard the same thing, and the explanation given is that the Liturgy of the Words is what leads up to and prepares us to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. If we don't have that preparation, we would also not have the proper disposition. And as I understand it, in the past that's what people would do...purposefully show up to Mass late to receive Holy Communion only, and skip everything else.

But Canon Law is silent on this particular issue so that means the "lateness" issue must be addressed in some other document.

Ask your parish priest about it, maybe he can give you a good source.

Christina said...

So, it sounds like you can receive communion twice in one day under most situations, with viaticum added as needed (thus could be 3 or more). You could go to a service (communion only or mass) in the morning, get hit by a bus and receive viaticum, find out your ok and go to mass with the kind priest, then have a heart attack that night and receive viaticum again...

It sounds like the only thing you can't do is go to a communion service as your second or (outside near death) go for a third.

Adoro said...

Christina ~ Well, almost. You can, say, receive Viaticum in the morning, and then later that day recover and attend Mass, a Communion Service, a Wedding, a Funeral (hopefully not your own, lol), etc.

The main requirement is that the 2nd reception is a "Eucharistic Celebration" which is not limited to Mass, but MAY be a Communion Service.

And yes, you can receive a third time if it is Viaticum.


The Ironic Catholic said...

I'm not a canon lawyer either (praise be, and no offense to you canonists out there--I'm glad you enjoy it). But these are the questions *I* would ask:

When is twice reception not scrupulosity?

And if twice is OK, what the heck is wrong with three times? or four? Why is twice the limit? (unless you're so lucky to receive viaticum?!)

Adoro said...

IC ~ Well, I'm not a canonist either. Just a student.

Your first question is one that does not belong to Canon Law, but to a Confessor. There are legitimate reasons for receiving twice in one day. When I was in high school I was a cantor, and I attended 2 Masses on Sunday, received both times. I was not aware of CL, but happy now to know that I was not in violation.

Your second question is actually one of our scenarios for this month, so it'll probably get answered next weekend. All I know is that the Latin word means "again" which would indicate a second time in the context of the rest of Can. 917. Not "ad infinitum". I believe that a previous law in the 1917 Code didn't offer any restriction at all and so this was in answer to that question. Canon 917 is a restrictive canon so has to be read in light of Canon 18.

But...I might have a better answer for you next weekend. Check back! (Myself, I'm going with whatever our professor says, considering he IS a Canon Lawyer!)

Hidden One said...

"The main requirement is that the 2nd reception is a "Eucharistic Celebration" which is not limited to Mass, but MAY be a Communion Service."

Hmmmm... from what I've read on the CA website, a Eucharistic Celebration is only a Eucharistic Celebration if there is a Consecration...

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ I would have thought that, too. But based on what our professor, a Canon Lawyer says, a communion service, as it involves the reception of Holy Communion is STILL considered to be a "Eucharistic celebration".

It goes back to reading the Law strictly about what it actually says...not what we would prefer that it say.

Watchman said...

Why would participation be listed as a requirement if one participates merely by being present? In other words, how could one *fail* to meet that requirement? Who is excluded by that stipulation other than the absent?

Adoro said...

Watchman ~ Well, if you attend Mass with the intention of, say, taking a nap instead of actually engaging in prayer...that's not participation.

One always has to have the proper state of grace, etc. That doesn't mean distractions don't happen, just intent to be present with Our Lord worshiping Him as a community.

Hope that makes sense, quckly dashing off this comment!

Watchman said...

Thanks! That not only makes sense, it's helpful! I imagine the requirement to "participate" would also preclude pulling into a church parking lot, leaving the engine running, and dashing inside just long enough to receive Holy Eucharist for a second time then racing back to your car to screech away in a cloud of dust.

I should probably stop that, then. ;)

Adoro said...

Um, yeah, one cannot just go in an grab Communion. Stop that! lol

Banshee said...

Re: lateness --

The rule about getting to Mass in time for the Gospel (or the Homily, or at least before the Offertory) is that it doesn't count as attending Mass unless you get in at least some of the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Failing that, you have to come back to another Mass to get some Liturgy of the Word, or just confess defeat in fulfilling your Sunday obligation. (Which you can do without sin, if you have sufficient reason.)

Now, your local priest or EMHC might not want you to receive Communion unless you've attended Mass officially, but that rule isn't supposed to be for Communion reception that I've ever heard. I guess that if you came to Mass with the full intention of getting Communion _and_ purposefully not fulfilling your Sunday obligation, that'd be a mortal sin so you shouldn't be receiving. Or if they couldn't be sure you'd fasted at least an hour -- but really, that's the communicant's job to police, unless they saw you sprint into church at the Sanctus with half a cheeseburger sticking out of your mouth.

Banshee said...

If you really did have a time crunch or woke up late or something (and assuming you'd fasted), it's perfectly correct to scurry in at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, receive Communion, stick around till the next Mass (possibly eating a donut first), attend the Liturgy of the Word, and leave at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. You could even get in the Liturgy of the Word at an evening Mass after hearing the Liturgy of the Eucharist at a morning one.

You wouldn't want to mix and match or play the minimums in normal life, of course. But in case you ever get really stuck (on a vacation or a crazy family emergency day), this stuff is good to know. That way, you won't have to feel pangs of unnecessary guilt or worry.

And of course, if you really can't get to Mass, you just can't get there. But for those of us who find it difficult to accept defeat, it is good to know how to finagle the occasional victory over Murphy's Law. :)

DevotedToMary said...

when fasting before communion, isnt gum considered food in a sense? should you not chew gum within that hour fast?

Adoro said...

Maureen ~ Do you know of a document that actually cites that?

Devotion ~ Yes, gum is considered to be food...particles of gum can be swallowed, or remain in the teeth, etc., Water is fine, if needed, however, and medication if needed.

Hidden One said...

Again, I've read conflicting info on CA about gum. Recently, i read that it didn't violate the fast, but I'm fairly certain that I've read before that it does. Adoro, could you provide the canon(s) or whatnot by which grounds gum does violate the fast? I'd like to fire off a Q to CA on that one. (Unless you'd like to do it. :P)

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ The answer to that is not to be found in Canon Law. I've always heard that gum violates the fast. Just consider're chewing gum at Mass and go up to receive Our Lord? Of COURSE it's a violation!

But the answer isn't in Canon Law. Remember...CL isn't there to deal with every tiny issue that arises. That's not what it's for.

Adoro said...

HIdden One ~ This article may help you understand the purpose and scope of Canon Law and why it doesn't answer questions about minor points such as "what exactly breaks the fast?" or "how late can I be to Mass?" :

Hidden One said...

I'll look at the article momentarily... incidentally, I found CA's explanation as to why it doesn't break the fast.

Adoro said...

Hmm....interesting. I'll ask about this in Canon Law this morning, too. (the more I learn, the more questions I have! lol!)

The canon states "only" medicine and water are permissible. If we strictly read the canon, even though gum isn't technically "food", it certainly is not medicine and water.

I'll ask in class.

Hidden One said...

I look forward to reading the answer that you receive. :-)

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ Well, I inquired today at class.

Our prof, a Canon Lawyer (I don't think Michelle Arnold is one, but don't know) said that she's wrong.

Why? Just read the canon! It says ONLY water or medicine are permitted. Gum does not fall into the category of medicine or water.

HOWEVER - there may be cases that gum CAN fit under the category of medicine, thus if it legitimately fits there, then it does not break the fast. However, if someone is chewing it for the sake of pleasure, for the flavor, etc...then it breaks the fast. Sugar and flavoring ARE food, not medicine, and so gum DOES break the fast under normal conditions.

Hope that helps!

Hidden One said...

Oh good... time to fire one off at Catholic Answers. [I thought that she was wrong too!]

Hidden One said...

I did some more research, and submitted a question to CA, using as a reference.

MichaelTherese said...

Why receive holy communion twice in one day?

An answer...

This has been a serious question for me to resolve. I had been given different answers by different catechists and needed to obtain a more definitive answer.

I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil this yearand the RCIA Director requested that all of us continue to attend Mass together at the 8:30AM Mass. She wanted those who supported and prayed for us during Lent could see that we were now participating in the Eucharist. We have been asked to continue this practice through Pentecost

However, I've been serving as a Minister of Hospitality for over two years at the 7:00AM Mass on Sunday. Along with having a continued obligation to serve as a Minister of Hospitality, many of those who attend the 7:00AM Mass have become close friends. We are sufficiently short-handed at 7:00AM that I serve every Sunday and not every other month or every three months as is common at other masses on Sunday.

I had an obligation to participate in two Masses but had been given instructions that I was to receive communion only once.

By asking others who might know the actual regulations concerning this issue, I learned that receiving communion more than once was permissible.

In my case it is only connected to meeting my obligations in my parish without leading others to a state of confusion about why I was not receiving communion at one of the two Masses.

I can only guess that others may encounter situations in which receiving communion more than once at the usual Sunday or daily masses is a reasonable thing to do.

For those wondering about my blog name: my given name is Michael and my confirmation name is Therese.

Peace & Blessings,
Michael Therese

Theresa Dearie said...

"Hidden One ~ I would have thought that, too. But based on what our professor, a Canon Lawyer says, a communion service, as it involves the reception of Holy Communion is STILL considered to be a "Eucharistic celebration".

It goes back to reading the Law strictly about what it actually says...not what we would prefer that it say."

You raise an interesting point about whether “Eucharistic celebration” refers to the Mass. I always understood that it does in fact mean “Mass” and does not include “Liturgy of the Word with the Eucharist” I was checking out the various occurrences of “eucharistic celebration” in the Code of Canon Law – but tellingly, the canon where it most unambiguously means “Mass” (so far) is the canon immediately following the canon of interest. 917 says it has to be within a eucharistic celebration. 918 clearly intends that a eucharistic celebration is a Mass.
Can. 917 One who has received the blessed Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a eucharistic celebration in which that person participates, without prejudice to the provision of can. 921 §2.
Can. 918 It is most strongly recommended that the faithful receive holy communion in the course of a eucharistic celebration. If, however, for good reason they ask for it apart from the Mass, it is to be administered to them, observing the liturgical rites.

Book IV, Part I, Title III, Chapter I, Article 3 (924 et seq.) deals with “The Rites and Ceremonies of the Eucharistic Celebration” and clearly deals with the Mass – see especially 926 and 927:

Can. 926 In the eucharistic celebration, in accordance with the ancient tradition of the latin Church, the priest is to use unleavened bread wherever he celebrates Mass.
Can. 927 It is absolutely wrong, even in urgent and extreme necessity, to consecrate one element without the other, or even to consecrate both outside the eucharistic celebration.

1248 clearly indicates it means “Mass” – and that it doesn’t mean “liturgy of the Word.”

Can. 1248 §1 The obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a catholic rite either on a holyday itself or on the evening of the previous day.
§2 If it is impossible to assist at a e celebration, either because no sacred minister is available or for some other grave reason, the faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a liturgy of the Word, if there be such in the parish church or some other sacred place, which is celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan Bishop; or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families.